Dalia and I excitedly boarded the 6:00 pm New Jersey Transit train in Trenton, NJ for the hour and a half train ride to Newark International Airport where we would catch our flight south. It was finally here--our much anticipated two-week vacation to Hilton Head, SC, and Savannah, GA where we would be joined by our two adult kids, Quilan and Kyrsten. Every year since I turned fifty years old, I insist on taking a two-week hiatus to leave behind the demanding job, ministry responsibilities, and yes, even Eusebeia duties. I relish the opportunity to "turn off my brain"--which sadly, is not an easy thing for me to do.
I was so excited for two blissful weeks of mental peace. But, within ten minutes, it was gone. Stolen.
Dalia and I were only minutes into the train ride to Newark International Airport when out of nowhere my mind told me that I forgot to lock the car that we had parked in a garage in Trenton, NJ. I had dropped Dalia off at the train station with our luggage and then proceeded down the block to park the car. I found a suitable parking spot and then I remembered jumping out of the car, grabbing my backpack, and heading to the train station. But, did I lock the car?
As we sat on the north-bound train moving farther and farther away from our car, I kept trying to visualize whether I pressed the lock on the remote. I couldn't remember doing so. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that I didn't lock our practically new car. And, it went downhill from there.
My mind kept rehearsing the following over and over again...
You're going to be away for two weeks with an unlocked car in a city that has a negative reputation for criminal activity. Your car is going to be stolen!
Even if the car isn't stolen, it is going to be vandalized because of your carelessness.
You should have taken an Uber to the train station anyway because you're going to pay way more money to park the car there. That was dumb!
You can't get off the train and go back because you'll risk missing your flight.
How could you do something so dumb? All you had to do was push the stupid lock button and now you're going to be tormented about this for the next two weeks. Vacation ruined!
I feared telling Dalia that I don't think I locked the car because I didn't want her worrying about it too. One of us worrying was enough.
Through the rest of the train ride, waiting at the airport, boarding the flight, and flying to Savannah, my mind kept rehearsing the same pattern for the entire evening and into the next day. Here we are at the very beginning of the vacation that was supposed to be about mental peace, yet I was tormented. I couldn't let go of the thought that my vacation was ruined before it even got started.
It finally occurred to me that in all this negative rumination, I had completely lost any sense of God's presence. The words of the prophet Isaiah (26:3) came to my mind, "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." I needed peace. So, it is for peace and trust in the Lord that I prayed. I begged the Lord to give me peace and rest in him for the next two weeks regardless of what might happen to our car. I prayed that I could forgive myself for allowing this to happen--even if the worst happened to the car.
As I sat in prayer and meditation that day, the Lord gave me a powerful vision of an angel brandishing a sword radiant with light and standing guard right beside our red Toyota Camry. Then, I felt the words in my Spirit, "I'm standing guard. Do not worry any longer." I was so struck by the image because honestly, I'm not typically one to have these type of visions. But, when I arose from that prayer my spirit was settled. It was so weird. I felt fine. Over the next two weeks, my mind rarely even thought about the car.
The Holy Spirit is leading me to share this story with you as a point of encouragement in your own life, marriage, and family.
The Adversary seeks to steal your joy by stoking fears of the worst possible outcomes. He steals your contentment by focusing your attention on all of the things you don't have. He steals your peace by stoking your worries that your marriage, your children, your job, and your goals will be disappointing. He steals your gratitude by orienting you to all of the mistakes that your kids (young and old) are making. He steals your marriage by reminding you of the emotional wounds and neglect that your spouse has unfairly inflicted on you. He steals your generosity and replaces it with a scarcity mindset in which you never have enough--love, faith, money, skill, or opportunity. Ultimately, and most perniciously, he steals your faith by keeping you focused on the present rather than the promise.
The Adversary is an expert thief with incalculable experience in the art of thievery. The Apostle John captured it best, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10). The Adversary plays mind games to destroy what God has for your life, marriage, and family. He is lying to you.
I'm writing this to remind you of a single Truth that the Apostle Paul posits, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). Whatever God has started, He will finish as long as you keep trusting and delighting in Him. Trust Him with your marriage. Trust Him with your children. Trust Him with your money. Trust Him with your health. Surrender your mind to Christ and ask him for peace, especially in the midst of a difficult storm. The Lord is bringing it all to completion.
I'm believing right now that Christ and His assigned heavenly angels are standing guard over his promises to you with a flaming sword. The Adversary is lying to you in order to steal what God has promised you. But, the Truth is that God is getting the glory in your circumstances. And, He is working things out for your glorious end (Jeremiah 29:11), "For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future".
Dalia and I arrived back from vacation this past Saturday afternoon. There sitting in the garage was our car--just as I'd left it. The doors were locked all along!
I couldn't help but praise the Lord for the vision in my spirit that released me from allowing the Adversary to steal my joy and peace of mind over the past two weeks.
What lies will you trust the Lord to release from you? I highly recommend an awesome book authored by Pastor John Mark Comer titled, "Live No Lies".